THE MIRACLES OF JESUS
by Wayne S. Walker
One of the evidences that Jesus used to confirm His message that He is the divine Son of God was the miracles that He performed. Even the people of His day understood that the working of miracles would be a sign of the Messiah. "And many of the people believed in Him, and said, ‘When the Christ comes, will He do more signs that these which this Man has done?’" (John 7:31). Jesus claims to have done miracles, invites us to investigate the evidence, and then asks us to believe on Him because of His works. Thus, we would do well to give serious consideration to the miracles of Jesus.
Before we can discuss this subject thoroughly, we must have a usable definition of miracles. There are five words used in the New Testament to describe those actions which we commonly refer to as miracles. Four of them are found in Hebrews 2:4 where we read, "God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?" The word "sign" refers to the purpose of these deeds, to point as a portent to something or someone special. The disciples prayed and asked God to work, "By stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus" (Acts 4:30).
The word "wonder" refers to the effect that the deed has, to cause amazement and awe on the part of the witnesses. "Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles" (Acts 2:43). The word "miracle" refers to the power that is behind the deed, to identify it as coming from someone mighty. "Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done" (Acts 8:13).
The word "gift" refers to the source, the fact that the power was given by some specific individual, in this case the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote, "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit," and went on to mention some of those gifts, saying, "to another the working of miracles" (1 Corinthians 12:4-9). Another word not found in the Hebrews passage is "work" which refers to the nature of the deed, that it was something done. Jesus said, "But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish–the very works that I do–bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me" (John 5:36). While it is clear that the words "gift" and "work" can be used in contexts where they refer to the miraculous, they can also be used of things that are not necessarily miraculous. However, in scripture, the other words are almost always used of that which we commonly call miraculous.
It is also instructive to identify what miracles are not. They are not natural phenomena, even though they may be amazing. In Genesis 1:14-18 God ordered that the heavenly bodies move in accordance with natural law. Eclipses are not miracles, even though Christopher Columbus made it appear so with the Indians. In Genesis 1:26-28 God ordered that human beings should reproduce in harmony with natural law. The birth of a baby, however wonderful and amazing it may be, is not a miracle, even though some people often use that word to describe it.
Nor are miracles acts of God’s providence. God has promised to provide for our needs, of mankind generally and His people specifically (Matthew 6:33, Acts 14:17, James 1:18). When a Christian who has lost his job and is just about to lose his house suddenly finds work, or when it rains after months of drought just in time to save the crops, that is certainly God’s providence but it is not a miracle even though we may not fully understand the how or why of what happened. And finally, miracles are not just forms of magic and trickery. In Acts 8:9-11, Simon the sorcerer had been doing magic and bewitching the people, but when they saw the real miracles of Philip, they immediately recognized Simon’s tricks for what they were and turned to Philip.
Thus, for the purposes of this study, we may define a miracles as a deed by which God temporarily sets aside the normal laws of nature which He has set in motion to govern the affairs of the universe in order to act directly and supernaturally as a sign of His divine power and approval. In future articles, we shall discuss the nature of miracles in the Bible, and especially those performed by Jesus, along with their purpose and historicalness. "Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did" (John 2:23). (—taken from With All Boldness; May, 2001; Vol. 11, No. 5; p. 12)